Discussions around declining trust in the US media can be vague about its effects. One classic answer comes from the persuasion literature, in which source credibility plays a key role. However, existing research almost universally takes credibility as a given. To overcome the potentially severe confounding that can result from this, we create a hypothetical news outlet and manipulate to what extent it is portrayed as credible. We then randomly assign subjects to read op-eds attributed to the source. Our credibility treatments are strong, increasing trust in our mock source until up to 10 days later. We find some evidence that the resulting higher perceived credibility boosts the persuasiveness of arguments about more partisan topics (but not for a less politicized issue). Though our findings are mixed, we argue that this experimental approach can fruitfully enhance our understanding of the interplay between source trust and opinion change over sustained periods.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- Source credibility
- attitude change
- media trust